Speaking native languages at work...

  1. A Sacramento hospital this week passed around a questionare to its nurses. Here is the question...

    Diversity Council Needs You!

    To give us input on the question of staff members using their native language(s) at work. We value your opinion. This survey will remain anomymous. Please respond and explain in full if possible.

    ...following was several blank lines to explain, essay type, how you felt about the issue.

    In case you're wondering, here is my response:

    I was always taught that whispering in public was rude. It makes others around uncomfortable as to what is being discussed and is exclusive-not inclusive-- to others.

    Speaking in a foreign language within earshot of patients, guests or co-workers who don't understand the dialect is the same as whispering. It alienates others and by its nature says "I'm speaking about something I don't want to share with you."

    In our hospital's very diverse environment, we all need to be especially sensitive to the cultures and backgrounds of others. No matter which of the dozens of languages spoken at (our hospital) we may understand, professionalism requires we adhere to the language we all speak fluently-- the one we used during our license exams and that all hospital
    documents are written in.

    Thank-you for asking!

    Should be good fodder for discussion here.
    Last edit by NMAguiar on Oct 5, '02
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    About NMAguiar

    Joined: Jul '02; Posts: 134; Likes: 3


  3. by   fergus51
    I agree. I think it is rude, unless the patient only speaks that "native" language or they are on their breaks. During work time, English should be the standard.
  4. by   BBnurse34
    Nurses who gather at the nurses starion speaking in a foreign language make me paranoid. I am impressed by their ability to master two languages, but still feel that it is darn rude.
  5. by   mario_ragucci
    Unless a person is totally still while they are talking, it's usually easy to tell what anyone is talking about because tone and body language is always transmitted.

    One of the main reasons I want to move back to NYC is because I miss speaking NYese. Lol. The only place NYese is accepted is at NYC. Anywhere else, non-NYese speakers will shame you into speaking special English, with is lackluster and boring, to me.

    It's hard to be self-rightous and attempt to limit anyones freedom of expression.
  6. by   caroladybelle
    As a Southerner I have to emphathize with Mario. I have had plenty of non-southerners make me embarassed about my dialect. Also I have lived in Miami, where english speakers are frequently made to feel like outsiders.

    While I would prefer people at the nurse's station to speak in English (here in the states) - I understand the need to speak in one's native language in social situations. As long as one is not excessively excluding others or making fun of them, it should be okay. I have been accepted in mission situations where I did not speak the dominant language. I owe that same respect to others.
  7. by   mark_LD_RN
    very rude!!
  8. by   OzNurse69
    I've been a patient in hospital in a non-English country (Brazil), and it is very disconcerting to have the staff talking about you when you can't understand what they are saying. Since this time, I've been very conscious about what I have said in front of pts, and I think talking about a pt in a language which they themselves do not speak, whether a non-English language or English itself, is the height of rudeness. This is also important to remember when talking in front of a NESB pt without an interpreter present.
  9. by   NMAguiar
    Hee, hee! :chuckle

    I originally intended to discuss languages, not regional distortions such as southern drawls or NY-ese.

    But since you mention it, I'm from the Appalacian area originally. When I first arrived in California I carried that silly drawl that makes one sound like Deputy Dog -- and assures listeners that you're married to your cousin and maintain a moonshine still in the backyard.

    It took months of concentrated effort to loose that. It still returns after I visit family. But it wasn't rude -- everyone still understood what I was saying. :roll
    Originally posted by NMAguiar
    Hee, hee! :chuckle

    I originally intended to discuss languages, not regional distortions such as southern drawls or NY-ese.
    I tend to agree with your thoughts NMAguiar, and I thought your response to the question was excellent!

    I also wanted to thank you for making the above distinction. I thought it was obvious in your original post that you were referring to speaking in a manner in which people around you had ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE as to what was being said, not about accents and dialects.

  11. by   pebbles
    I think it is rude and unprofessional. Cliquey and exclusional.

    I do, however, sympathise with those groups of workers from other countries who may feel like they are less a part of things because they speak english as a second language and not as well. But I work with many people who are fluent in english, despite being from other countries, and they manage to fit in and are accepted quite well.

    On an offshoot - one of our philipino nurses teaches us insults and swears in tagalog... so sometimes the good-natured social ribbing that we share between staff on my unit is truly multi-lingual. Differences in language and culture being used to build bridges and nurture workplace friendship....
  12. by   night owl
    I agree with everyone. The only exception is when they are on the phone with one of their family members, then that's their business. Sometimes I wish I had my own language when I speak to one of MY family members!!!!!! That way if I ever had to cuss at one of my kids, (which I know is wrong, but sometimes...) no one would know. I don't ever cuss at them on the phone at work, but come close with some of the stuff they call me for... Sheesh, emergencies ONLY d@mn it!
    A little story... Once I was floated to ICU and everyone was Filipino including the Doc...I thought that maybe I was drugged and hijacked to the Philippines. I felt really, really uncomfortable. When the nurse wanted to assign me some pts, I told her that the other nurse had already assigned me to three pts. She turned to her and spoke Tagalo, then turned and said to me, "You can keep the ones you have." I'm thinking she probably asked her if she assigned me all the incontinent ones! LOL I said to her, "You know so n so, one day I'm going to learn your language and then I'll know for sure what you're blabbin about! She just laughed. I'm thinkin, "Yeahhhh you...."
  13. by   Rustyhammer
    This thread has given me some insight. It is not uncommon for us to speak either english or spanish (sometimes in the same sentence) at our facility. I can walk down the hall and hear cna's speaking to each other in their own Indian language to each other and not think twice about it. I DO think it is rude to speak a language (lets say spanish) when there is someone standing there who doesn't know the language.
    Lately we have had some new nurses hired who don't know spanish and I have to remember to speak only in english around them. When speaking to pts that only speak spanish and there is a nurse that doesn't understand I always interpret.
    But to say english only at work is perhaps a bit unfair. People have a right to carry on a conversation among themselves in their own language.
  14. by   adrienurse
    It really bugs me when I see people feeding our patients while carrying on a conversation, it makes me extra crazy when this conversation is not in english. It also agitates the resident and does nothing to add to thier quality of care. Remember, if it wasn't for the patients, you wouldn't have a job -- they are the reason you are here. You need to show some respect.

    On the other hand, I used to work at a nursing home for french speaking people in the francophone area of town. Although my French is butchered at best, I tried my best to show respect by talking to the resident in thier language as much as I could.They appreciated this very much and respected the fact that this was not my mother-tongue.